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Comment Re:Important milestone (Score 1) 140

There was a story on Slashdot a while ago about the world's largest hedge fund replacing their fund managers with computers. That's not really that impressive though, since many studies have shown you can replace fund managers with monkeys flipping coins and get the same performance.

Many of the best learning systems are currently taught in an unsupervised way. They're fed stimuli and form their own internal model. Finally they're given a minimum of supervised training. Like a baby gazing around at the world for a few years then being told that the fluffy four legged thing is called a cat.

Comment Re:He's missing the point. (Score 4, Insightful) 138

It would be nice if people could learn to think in terms of threats that fell somewhere between "safe to ignore" and "extinction level event". Or could distinguish between "extreme and expensive" responses and "effective" ones.

9/11 could have been prevented by simple, conservative and inexpensive countermeasures. After 9/11 politicians droned on about how "9/11 changed everything," but the cold sober fact was that it in fact changed nothing. It just showed that some of the things sensible people had already been telling us to do (like reinforcing cockpit doors or getting agencies to work together despite institutional rivalries) really did need to be done. Instead "9/11 changed everything" became the rallying cry for every pet scheme that had heretofore been correctly dismissed as too expensive, hare-brained, or just plain dumb.

Which doesn't change the fact that something needed to be done. Here's the lesson I think we should take into this infrastructure debate: we should take sensible and conservative steps to secure infrastructure against terrorism now, before events put foolish ones on the table.

Submission + - France to review food whitener additive, titanium dioxide, for health risks (reuters.com)

Eloking writes: The French government has ordered a review of the safety of titanium dioxide as a food additive after a scientific study released on Friday found health effects in animals that consumed the substance.

Titanium dioxide is widely used in industry as a whitener, notably for paint. It is an ingredient in some foods such as sweets and known as additive E171.

France's National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and partners in a study on oral exposure to titanium dioxide had shown for the first time that E171 crosses the intestine wall in animals to reach other parts of the body, INRA said.

Comment Re:Good but... (Score 1) 116

Or... what if anytime anyone called a residential number, a nickel was transferred from the caller's account to the callee's account.

That wouldn't stop anyone from making a call where an actual person is likely to be involved; the labor costs for a three minute conversation would swamp that. But it would discourage people from robocalling a hundred thousand people in order to turn up a handful of suckers.

And the public wouldn't have to pay a regulator to try to track down these boiler room operations.

Comment Re:Agrument in favor of modularity (Score 1) 86

I don't have to do anything. Even stored under ideal circumstances li-ion batteries lose capacity.

What matter is capacity relative to demand. In a phone like the Droid Maxx from a few years ago with plenty of surplus battery the phone will still be usable four years later. But something like a Samsung Galaxy S6 barely has enough battery to make it through the day when brand new and is pretty much unusable two years later even under ideal conditions.

Submission + - The 32-Bit Dog Ate 16 Million Kids' CS Homework

theodp writes: Tech backed-Code.org explains in a blog post that it encountered technical difficulties Friday that temporarily made the work of 16 million K-12 students who have used the nonprofit's Code Studio offering disappear. Code.org CTO Jeremy Stone gave the kids an impromptu lesson on the powers of two with his explanation of why The Cloud ate their homework: "This morning, at 9:19 am PST, coding progress by students stopped saving on Code Studio, and the issue briefly brought the Code Studio site down. We brought the site back up shortly thereafter but student progress was still not being saved, and instead students saw an outdated message about the Hour of Code from December. [...] The way we store student coding activity is in a table that until today had a 32-bit index. What this means is that the database table could only store 4 billion rows of coding activity information. We didn’t realize we were running up to the limit, and the table got full. We have now made a new student activity table that is storing progress by students. With the new table, we are switching to a 64-bit index which will hold up to 18 quintillion rows of information. On the plus side, this new table will be able to store student coding information for millions of years. On the down side, until we’ve moved everything over to the new table, some students’ code from before today may temporarily not appear, so please be patient with us as we fix it."

Comment Re:There's a lot more iron much closer... (Score 4, Informative) 293

And there's some twenty million tons of gold dissolved in the Earth's oceans. Jules Verne made it the source of Captain Nemo's incredible wealth.

To put twenty million tons of gold in perspective, all the gold that has ever been mined by humans totals up to about 180 thousand tons. To put in another perspective: sure, it's gold, but at a concentration of thirteen billionths of a gram per liter of seawater it's worthless unless you have unlimited time and energy to extract it.

That's the problem with asteroid mining in general. Until the cost of changing an object's momentum goes down drastically it's not worth doing. If Pysche were a 1000 kg block of pure, refined platinum (market price: $34 million) you'd be hard-pressed to retrieve it and return it to Earth at a profit. Which is not to say asteroid mining is a bad idea; but first things first: you've got to reduce the price of interplanetary propulsion by a couple orders of magnitudes. One thing that never happens in a sci-fi asteroid mining scenario is the hero worrying about running out of gas. Propulsion in stories is always practically limitless and free of charge. Real propulsion will never be that good, but it could get good enough.

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